9 Best Native Trees for Birds and Wildlife in New Zealand

New Zealand has a variety of native trees that are good for planting if you want to attract birds to your garden. Birds frequent trees in search of nectar, fruits, insects and for building their nests. If your trees will provide these things, you will begin receiving frequent avian visitors. Select from a wide range of native plants to ensure the trees are productive all year round. Mix tree species that mature at different heights and with a diverse range of habitats.

The following list of trees are best suited for birds and wildlife in New Zealand.

1. Kowhai (Sophora microphylla)

Kowhai (Sophora microphylla)
Geoff McKay/Flickr

Kowhai occurs naturally in woodland or coastal areas and is the national flower of New Zealand. This tree is a favorite tree for New Zealand birds, especially the Tui, Bellbird and Kereru. Its yellow flowers produce nectar that attracts birds and other pollinators. It also offers shelter for birds. The horn-shaped flowers bloom during the spring. Kereru feeds on the leaves, and sometimes leaves the plant bare in the spring.

  • Requires full sunlight or partial shade.
  • Grows well in damp, well-drained soils. 

2. Cabbage tree/ Ti Kuoka (Cordyline australis)

Cabbage tree/ Ti Kuoka (Cordyline australis)
Katja Schulz/Flickr

The cabbage tree is a New Zealand native plant that resembles a palm tree. It is characterized by a tall erect trunk, with branches supporting narrow pointed leaves and clusters of small white flowers. The tree is naturalized to coastal areas. It has a rough bark with fissures and color ranging from pale to dark grey.

 It grows very fast after it is cut down. The flowers of the tree bloom from October to December and are followed by berries from January to March. They are nectar-rich and popular among Tui, Kereru and Bellbird. The berries are a nutritious food source for local wildlife. 

  • Performs well in fertile, moist, well-drained soils.
  • Grows best under full sunlight or partial shade. Cabbage tree is salt and drought-tolerant once established. 

3. Kawakawa (Marcopiper excelsum)

Kawakawa (Marcopiper excelsum)
Geoff McKay/Flickr

Kawakawa is a small tree with dense branches that grows up to six meters tall. It is naturalized to coastal and lowland forests in New Zealand. It is characterized by fleshy, dark green, heart-shaped leaves with prominent veins.

The name “Kawakawa” refers to the bitter taste of the leaves. The tree produces tiny flowers in separate male and female plants. They are followed by yellow fruits which are a popular food source for the local wildlife. The seeds of the tree are a favorite food for many birds in the summer.

  • Grows best in moist, rich and well-drained soils. 
  • Prefers full or partial shade. 

4. Kahikatea/ White Pine (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides)

Kahikatea/ White Pine (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides)
Jan Helebrant/Flickr

Kahikatea is naturalized to lowland forests of New Zealand with poorly drained alluvial soils. It is the oldest-living and tallest tree in New Zealand. The trees can grow up to 55m tall and live up to 500 years.

It is characterized by dull green, overlapping leaves in mature trees and needle-like foliage with a bronze-like color in young trees. Kahikatea produces small, fleshy red fruits that are a favorite for birds and other small animals. Tui, bellbirds and New Zealand pigeons feed on the seeds from the White pine.

  • Grows well in fertile, well-drained soils. 
  • Prefers full sunlight. 

5. Nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida)

Nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida)
Katja Schulz/Flickr

Nikau is a tall, palm tree that grows to 15m tall and 3m wide. It produces small red fruits that are a favorite food for birds. Scented pink flowers bloom from spring to autumn.

Nikau is naturalized to coastal and lowland forests in the warmer regions of New Zealand. The leaves were traditionally used to thatch houses, weave mats and baskets and wrap food before cooking.

They can also be used as a laxative and for other medicinal purposes. It is low maintenance and does not require maintenance to regulate growth. It propagates mainly through seeds. 

  • Prefers deep well-drained soils. 
  • Grows well in full sun or partial shade. 

6. Puriri (Vitex lucens)

Puriri (Vitex lucens)

Puriri is a large tree with an irregular trunk and spreading branches that support dark green leaves made of five leaflets radiating from a single stalk. It is characterized by pink, bell-shaped flowers that bloom from May to October.

They attract Tui and Bellbird. The flowers give way to fruits appearing from January. The large berries are a favorite food for Kereru. It was very popular for its medicinal benefits to the Maori.

  • Prefers deep, fertile, well-drained soils. It is drought tolerant once established. 
  • Grows well in full sunlight or partial shade. 

7. Rimu/ Red Pine (Dacrydium cupressinum)

Rimu/ Red Pine (Dacrydium cupressinum)
Katja Schulz/Flickr

Red pine is a large tree characterized by pointed-scale leaves. Adult trees have fewer and short spreading branches while younger trees have numerous and longer branches.

Rimu is a deciduous conifer that matures at 35-60m tall. It has dark green leaves that change color in the fall and resemble an old man’s beard. The red fruits are a favorite food for many bird species. The gum from the bark was used to stop bleeding and the leaves were used for their healing qualities.

  • Grows best in moist, well-drained, fertile soils. 
  • Prefers full sunlight or partial shade. 

8. Kotukutuku/ Tree Fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata)

Kotukutuku/ Tree Fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata)

Kotukutuku is a spreading small tree characterized by a flaky orange bark, and thin pointed leaves, dark green on the top with a white bottom and prominent veins. It occurs naturally in lowland and mountain forests in New Zealand.

It produces tubular green or red flowers that bloom from mid-winter to early spring. They are popular among Tui and Bellbird. The flowers give way to fruits that are favored by Kereru. The tree can grow up to 12m high. 

  • Grows well in wet, fertile, well-drained soils.
  • Prefers full or partial shade. 

9. Totara (Podocarpus totara)

Totara (Podocarpus totara)
Scot Nelson/Flickr

Totara is a tall forest tree that grows up to 30m tall. It can be identified through its flaky bark, and long sharp tipped leaves. The tree is abundant in lowland forests in New Zealand.

It produces red, succulent, sweet fruits that are eaten by local birds. The fruits will ripen within a year and peak from April to May. Propagates by seeds and hardwood cuttings. The tree was often used by the Maori for the construction of canoes while the bark was used to make bags. 

  • Grows well in wet, well-drained, and fertile soils.
  • Prefers full sunlight or partial shade. 

These native trees are great for birds native to New Zealand. When planting, diversity your trees to ensure different bird species can enjoy your garden. They will offer, fruits, seeds, nectar and habitat for birds and other small animals. 

Check out the best native trees to plant in the UK and Australia!